Styles in the Arts and in the Sciences (online seminar)

Fall 2022-Winter 2023 – Online Seminar

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia – Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage

European Commission – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

Organizer: Matteo Vagelli (Ca’ Foscari/Harvard)

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OCTOBER 17, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Isabelle Kalinowski, ENS Paris

Gottfried Semper: Style and the Thickness of Time


OCTOBER 24, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Rémi Mermet, ENS Paris

Beyond Formalism: Heinrich Wölfflin’s Concept of Style


OCTOBER 31, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Andrea Pinotti, Università degli Studi di Milano

Style in Art and Style in perception: a Problematic Correlation


JANUARY 24, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Frédéric Fruteau de Laclos, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Existentialisme de la connaissance et stylistique de l’idéation


FEBRUARY 6, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Mari Hvattum, Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Style and Solitude. The History of an Architectural Problem


FEBRUARY 13, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Eva Geulen, ZfL Berlin

Why Style Now?

Matteo Vagelli, PhD

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University)

Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries. 7th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology (Ca’ Foscari, 9-10 June)

Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries
7th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology

Thursday 9- Friday 10 June

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia (Aula Baratto – Dorsoduro 3246 – 30123 VE – Second floor)


Registration is mandatory


Further information:

Thursday JUNE 9, 2022

10:30 Welcome & Introduction Marco Sgarbi, Ca’ Foscari

Chair Roberta Dreon, Ca’ Foscari

Polemics and epistemes: symbiontics in contemporary bio-arts

Chair Eleonora Montuschi, Ca’ Foscari

14:00 Francesco Nappo, Politecnico di Milano
How Maxwell discovered the Maxwell equations

14:40 Stefano Furlan, MPIWG Berlin/Université de Genève
The smile of mnemosyne: John Wheeler between history of science and arts

15:20 Ladislav Kvasz, Institute of philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague
On epistemological reconstruction of the development of the concept of space in geometry and in painting

Cultural politics of historical epistemology

17:20 PETER GALISON, Harvard University
Wastewilderness: nuclear lands

Friday JUNE 10, 2022

Chair Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari/Harvard University

9:30 Gwenda-lin Grewal, New School for Social Research
Fashion and academic divisiveness

10:10 Maria Teresa Costa, MPIWG Berlin
A transcultural history of art history from the 19th century and beyond. Art and science in a dialogue

11:20 Lucie Fabry, AMU/CGGG
Is there a science of interpretation? Sociology of art and epistemology of social sciences in the work of Jean-Claude Passeron

Chair Caroline Angleraux, Labex Who am I?/IHPST

14:00 Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari/Harvard University
Theories of “scientific styles” across the arts/sciences divide

14:40 Daniel Rodriguez-Navas, New School for Social Research
Art and science, method and style: the function of the concept of style in French historical epistemology

15:20 Rémi Mermet, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Between art and science: Ernst Cassirer’s concept of style

16:20 Agnese Ghezzi, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca
The entangled histories of anthropology and photography, between art and science

17:00 ELENA CANADELLI, Università degli Studi di Padova
Art, science, and nature: museums as entangled spaces

This workshop is organized by:

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of

Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage;
European Commission (This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”);
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS);
Centre Gilles Gaston Granger (UMR 7304);

Center for Renaissance and Early Modern Thought (CREMT).

Organizing committee

Matteo Vagelli (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia/Harvard University);
Caroline Angleraux (Labex Who Am I?/IHPST);
Lucie Fabry (Aix Marseille Université, Centre Gilles-Gaston Granger);
Iván Moya-Diez (Universidad Alberto Hurtado);
Thomas Embleton (IHPST).


Art, Science, and Nature: Museums as Entangled Spaces

Elena Canadelli, Università degli Studi di Padova

Natural history museums and science and technology museums are currently facing many challenges in terms of change of narratives and curatorial trends. Today, many Western scientific museums are wondering how to cope with their history and their historical collections, and how to rethink their identities and exhibitions, which are deeply rooted in the nineteenth-century ideas of science, nature, civilization, progress, production, and development–whether we like it or not. Exhibiting scientific objects traditionally means adopting a specific narrative and selection of artefacts not only in connection to scientific theories and ideas, but also to political or ideological agendas. This talk will show how complex and entangled are the narratives behind the public display of natural history and scientific artefacts in museums during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, selecting some European cases as relevant examples. Today, one of the ways in which scientific museums are changing their narratives is the introduction of contemporary art in their research projects and strategies of engaging different kinds of audiences. Thus, many contemporary artists are developing projects in collaboration with scientific museums worldwide, from the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci in Milan to the Natural History Museum in Berlin. This presentation will explore this general topic, on the one hand addressing examples of recent collaborations between artists and scientific museums, and on the other hand focusing on some relevant moments of this collaboration in the history of this seminal Western institution.

A Transcultural History of Art History from the 19th Century and beyond. Art and Science in a Dialogue

Maria Teresa Costa, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin)

As art history emerged as scientific discipline in the second half of the 19th century, first in the German speaking context and then in other countries, two opposite tendencies were developing. On one side the connoisseurship, approaching the work of art in its singularity and studying its material and technical aspects with an attributionist aim, and following an evolutionary idea of art history. On the other side, different approaches were unified by the analysis of the work of art within its broader cultural context, in reconstructing its social, cultural and political dimensions, in the dialogue with other disciplines. Both groups wanted to legitimate their methodologies on a “scientific” basis, the first grounded on the direct observation of the work of art, the latter developing a series of general concepts (Grundbegriffe), valid for interpreting works coming from different cultural contexts. This second tendency, born in German speaking countries as “Kunstwissenschaft”, and later translated in France as “science de l’art”, emerged in taking distance exactly from the direct study of techniques and material aspects, working on a more abstract level and aiming to pinpoint affinities and similarities between artifacts. Alois Riegl’s Kunstwollen, Heinrich Wölfflin’s Formgefühl, Aby Warburg’s Pathosformel and Henri Focillon’s Vie des formes are only a few examples. In this paper, I want to discuss this methodological gap between different approaches to art history in the epoch in which it was more intensively aiming to build its disciplinary identity, and to follow its development in the actual art historical practice.

Is there a science of interpretation? Sociology of art and epistemology of social sciences in the work of Jean-Claude Passeron

Lucie Fabry, Aix-Marseille Université/Centre Gilles Gaston Granger

In Sociological reasoning (1st ed. 1991), Jean-Claude Passeron brings together chapters on the epistemology of the social sciences and chapters on the sociology of art and culture. I will question the relationships between these two dimensions of his work, going beyond the observation that Passeron is a sociologist with an interest in the epistemology of his discipline. I will show that these two dimensions of his work have in common that they grant a central role to the notion of interpretation: Passeron claims, in his epistemological work, that the social sciences are interpretative sciences, and his sociology analyses the interpretations of works of art. By comparing what Passeron writes, as a sociologist, on aesthetic interpretations as social practices, and what he writes, as an epistemologist, on interpretations as scientific practices, I will question of the relation between art and science, but also between epistemology and sociology of science. I will wonder, in particular, whether Passeron defines demarcation criteria between scientific and non-scientific interpretations, and in what sense these scientific norms may differ from the social norms of interpretation.

The Smile of Mnemosyne: John Wheeler between History of Science and Arts

Stefano Furlan, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin)

John A. Wheeler (1911-2008) is a leading figure of 20th-century physics, well-known even to a larger public for his evocative expressions such as “black hole” or “it from bit”. Much less-known – actually, almost entirely unexplored – is his active engagement with the arts and their history, as well as with the history of science. This paper intends to offer some insights on Wheeler’s related activities from the 1950s to the early 1960s. A first aspect concerns his reflections on a meta-level, viz. how he conceived his own physical researches within a historical dimension, what uses of the past he resorted to, which features had to be emphasized in the large historical projects he was starting to plan and organize (such as the famous “Sources for History of Quantum Physics”, then led by T. Kuhn, J.Heilbron and others). Interestingly enough, Wheeler was inspired by interviews that he happened to read in some art journals, where e.g. young writers were interviewing distinguished colleagues about their creative processes. Likewise, Wheeler intended to preserve the legacy of the founders of 20th-century physics not just by gathering documents or “factual” pieces of information, but having competent people interviewing them and trying to shed light on their heuristic strategies, inspirations, and so on. This methodological analogy clearly aimed at offering a different picture of physics and of its actors, a task particularly urgent after the recent appearance of an ambivalence towards its role in creating the terrifying weapons that appeared at the end of World War II. However, that was not simply a captivating move: in Wheeler’s mind it synergistically interacted with his very peculiar way (at least among recent physicists) of looking at the past. Far from considering history as obsolete material for dusty archives, Wheeler always tried to look for inspiration from past ideas or theories, either by analogy or by identifying some untapped potential still waiting to be disclosed. If, to outsiders, this may sound as a noble but impractical attitude in science, it is worth underlining that it was such an operation that led Wheeler to dust off first (early 1950s-early 1970s) Einstein’s legacy, and later Bohr’s. His renewed meditations on the work of his two great mentors did bear fruit: what nowadays appears as Wheeler’s most “futuristic” or “visionary” proposals, black holes and quantum information as a basis for everything, started as a fully aware, even methodological operation of polishing and disclosing the potentialities of past ideas. He had a similar attitude also when it came to pictures, that he largely employed both in his heuristics (as a visual thinker) and in the popularization of his researches. In this sense, he developed a quasi-Warburgian conception of pictures and of their powers, which saw him re-exhuming and re-functionalizing diagrams or illustrations from previous centuries. All these aspects can be seen in action, also thanks to the working notes that Wheeler dutifully kept for posterity and for future “historical epistemologists”, in the long, complex path that led him to become the godfather of black holes.

Wastewilderness: Nuclear Lands 

Peter Galison, Harvard University

As they are usually understood, the designations “nuclear wasteland” and “pure wilderness” are opposites poles.  When the two kinds of lands converge into nature reserves on the sites of decommissioned nuclear weapons lands, storage facilities, or accident sites, we often describe this circumstance as “paradoxical” or “ironic.”  Taking stock of plans to manage lands (and build monuments to warn the very distant future), I argue that the categories of wastelands and wilderness are far from antipodes; that their relation is more intriguing (and disturbing) than a binary of purity against corruption or civilization against chaos.  Indeed, the most radioactive site in the U.S. weapons complex is also, astonishingly, one of the most bio-diverse in North America, with similar developments across the world.  Removing parts of the earth in perpetuity —for reasons of sanctification or despoilment–alters a central feature of the human self, presenting us in a different relation to the physical world, and raising irreducible ethical questions about who we are when land can be classified, forever, as not for us humans.  Confronting such territories sets us where historical epistemology crosses with the ethics of how we cultivate our relation with the self, others, and the non-human, now and for the long term.

The entangled histories of anthropology and photography, between art and science

Agnese Ghezzi, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca

The history of anthropology offers an interesting vantage point to analyse the connections as well as the demarcations between the “two cultures”. Looking at the institutionalisation of the anthropological discipline in Italy during the second half of the nineteenth century, the paper aims to analyse the different scholarly discourses around what anthropology should be. Such arguments moved primarily on the divide between a cultural and scientific orientation of the discipline’s object and methodology (Pogliano 1993, Stocking 1996).
The formation of anthropology happened in a phase of delineation of the natural and the human sciences and the new community of anthropologists  – made of “zoologists and travellers, paleethnologists and physicians, psychiatrists and physiologists, philologists and historians” (Mantegazza 1901) – entered into that crack and developed within it. While some scholars saw anthropology as a “natural history of man” and promoted the application of a rigid scientific method, others privileged the attention to historical, cultural, or psychological data. I will, therefore, analyse how the new community mediated between these two poles, looking at the intersection with other disciplines and especially at the contact with ideas of art and science.
Firmly rooted in medical knowledge, anthropology was moving on the line between what Ginzburg called an anatomical/naturalist model and a conjectural/semiotic model (Ginzburg 1980). On the one hand, anthropologists desired a highly disciplined representation of human varieties and tried to build a ‘human atlas’ where the biological features resulted isolated and comparable. On the other, they looked for a less staged and more lively description, not focused on bodily features but on attitudes, traditions and habits, with the attempt to build a system of “comparative psychology” (Mantegazza, Giglioli and Letourneau 1873).
I will particularly analyse the methods that were proposed in regards to observation and visualisation, that emerged as crucial practices to address (Daston and Lunbeck 2011, Edwards 2016). Photography was soon promoted as a fundamental ally in the classification of human groups and handbooks referenced to the correct employ of such visual technique (Puccini 1998). Next to the need for a “scientific photography” that follows the anthropometric standard – in line with the paradigm of ‘mechanical objectivity’ (Daston and Galison 1992, 2007) – there was the need for an “artistic photography” able to capture the attitude and the character of the portrayed subjects (Zannetti and Giglioli 1874).
Therefore, the paper crosses the 19th-century debate on the definition of photography as a technique at the intersection between art and science with the discourses around anthropology as a discipline in between the humanistic and the scientific domain. It will consider how fin-de-siecle Italian anthropology invoked both artistic and scientific concepts and it will explore if and how photography shaped and influenced the method of the discipline itself and, vice versa, how that branch of knowledge regulated and systematised the use of photography (Caraffa et al. 2019). Looking inward to how the tools made the discipline, this paper identifies the various discourses associated with photography, exploring the influence visual materials exerted on scientific theory.

Fashion and Academic Divisiveness

Gwen Grewal, The New School for Social Research

“Fashion” seems to be neither an art nor a science. At its most narrow, it might be argued to belong to the third culture of the “social sciences”; at its broadest, it might be cast as equivalent to the mode or style in which every art, science, or social science must participate by default. Yet the scorn fashion receives from the so-called arts and the indifference it receives from the so-called sciences suggest an interesting critique of their division.
In Anachronic Renaissance, Christopher Wood and Alexander Nagel have argued that the arrival of art history in the late medieval or early Renaissance period is simultaneous to the inclusion of fashion in art. During that period, a secular vision of art appears in which fashion is integral, for fashion seems to rear its head alongside a cultural awareness of time and in contrast to timeless iconography. Nagel and Wood’s view is one shared by fashion historians and philosophers alike. For example, in her recent book Social Appearances, Barbara Carnevali attributes fashion’s modernity to the expression of “individuality and originality” in clothing; while in Seeing Through Clothes, Anne Hollander distinguishes fashionable modernity from its fashionless past by the presence of “significant distortion and creative tailoring.”
I offer two points of criticism to these views: 1) Fashion is not modern. It may be as ancient as that old quarrel Plato speaks of in the Republic between philosophy and poetry—a quarrel that could easily be extended to the 20th century division between hard and soft intellectual modes. 2) Attributing any beginning to fashion is as impossible as positing a beginning for thinking. Yet the advantage to historicizing fashion may be summarized thus:  if there were to be a time before we wore time’s baggage on our persons—a time when our being in the world was stripped or at least unaware of its mode—we might be able to imagine a future in which epistemology could be, uncluttered by individual flair.
Fashion’s association with fluffy femininity is the specter of the perception of the “arts” in its most ill-starred form, and the widening gap between the arts and the sciences is traceable to that same longing to expiate ourselves of fashion’s influence. But, as Rousseau remarks in the First Discourse, the arts and sciences both amp up their specialized jargon to conceal ignorance; this enervates big questions in favor of small distinctions. The divisions in academia, ever finer, ever more querulous, display an “achievement” whose price is a removal from the indivisible world that inspired its inquiry. Within itself it becomes further removed from itself. Rousseau seems to have anticipated the lack of communication between literary intellectuals and scientists that C.P. Snow described. Travel between the two cultures becomes impossible, when the question of mode—of fashion—has been forgotten. The sidelining of fashion, understood both as a “lesser art” that deals with clothing and as way or manner, is not only a symptom of the division between the arts and sciences, but also an unsuspected route through which one might assess its current appearance.

Polemics and Epistemes:Symbiontics in Contemporary Bio-Arts

Caroline A. Jones, MIT

Can polemics shift epistemes? The artworld operates on this utopian premise. A century of symbiosis theory has quietly or explicitly challenged “Darwin’s bulldogs” and neo-Darwinism. Yet scientists working today on symbiosis in life systems still operate culturally within an episteme of Darwinian evolutionary theory and domestication metaphors: “harnessing” metabolisms by “cheaters” or “altruists,” the parasite and its host. Artists are crafting a frontal attack on the Darwinian episteme, informing an urgent polemic I dub “Symbiontics.”  This presentation will explore the collaborations between artists and science (if not scientists) that allow us to explore this portmanteau, which takes technical philosophy’s term “ontic” and adds it to symbiosis to support the claim that symbiosis is that-which-is. Indebted to the wordplay of biologists themselves (Ivan Wallin, Scott Gilbert) and cultural theorists (Beth Demster, Donna Haraway) “symbiontics” plies its craft literally in artworks that sprout mycelial blooms, plasmodium patterns, or HeLa cell patterns. The endosymbiotic and serial endosymbiosis theories of evolution that biologist Lynn Margulis put forward in the late ‘60s are now gaining impact in the shifting cultural frame of the contemporary art world. Their uptake by the visual arts will be discussed via a range of contemporary art works that attempt to sense the message of evolution: all creatures live on a microbial planet and do best when they proliferate genomic flexibility and welcome symbiotic partners. Survival favors the most interdependent.
As curator of the forthcoming exhibition Symbionts, I will argue that a new demographic of contemporary artists questions the “code dominance” of 2000.  Two decades into the new millennium, we might be able to resonate with the fact that our cells are cooperative amalgams of aerobic single-celled organisms merging into other archaeobacteria, that multicellular bodies carry around a swarm of bacteria that chemically modulate our moods, digest our food, and provide a constant stream of information to our immune system. Building on Margulis’s hunch that our sensory cells themselves derive from ancient partnerships formed with spirochetic bacteria, I ask after the (un)conscious wriggling chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities that give us our haptic, auditory, olfactory, and retinal access to the world — a strange universe of epistemic possibilities that entails using our equally strange tools of art (Noë) and entanglements (Barad) to open ourselves to the resonant frequencies of ancient collaborators within. I argue for a polemical shift in a dominant scientific episteme, following art toward a being-with our symbionts, calling upon viscera to confirm our interspecies dependence.

On Epistemological Reconstruction of the Development of the Concept of Space in Geometry and in Painting

Ladislav Kvasz, Institute of philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague)

In Ancient Greek mathematics we cannot find any systematic study of the concept of space. If we take Euclid, Archimedes or Apollonius, we see them study different geometrical objects, but never any study of space. It seems, that the notion of space entered mathematics after Renaissance from painting. After space was reified in geometry (i.e. turned into an object of study) by Desargues, an interesting and intricate development of the notion of space started. In my book Patterns of Change (Kvasz 2008, pp. 111 – 159) I proposed an epistemological reconstruction of the development of the notion of space in geometry using Wittgenstein´s picture theory of meaning.

The main idea of this approach is to apply Wittgenstein´s picture theory of meaning to pictures contained in groundbreaking text on geometry. It turns out, that the most natural way to reconstruct the development of geometric space from an epistemological point of view is to reconstruct it as the development of the pictorial form of the particular mathematical texts. According to Wittgenstein the pictorial form is the way how aspects of a (linguistic) representation are related to the world they represent. It is possible to discriminate several pictorial forms, i.e. different ways of how geometers organize the systems of lines, that constitute their pictures, into a geometric representation. It turns out, that the main breakthroughs in the development of geometry were accompanied with changes of the pictorial form.

Maybe even more interesting feature of the present approach is, that very similar innovations, than those used by Desargues, Lobachevski, Klein or Poincaré in geometry, were used by painters like Albrecht Dürer, Andrea Pozzo, Diego Velázquez, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne or George Braque. In the paper I will introduce the concept of pictorial form of a representation, distinguish four different pictorial forms in the history of geometry and show paintings which use analogous pictorial forms.

This shows, that at least in the area of visual representation the boundaries between geometry and painting are blurred. The analysis indicates, that there is a fundamental level of understanding our spatial experience, that unites science with art.


Kvasz, Ladislav: Patterns of Change. Linguistic Innovations in the Development of Classical Mathematics. Birkhäuser, Basel 2008.

Between Art and Science: Ernst Cassirer’s Concept of Style

Remi Mermet, Centre d’histoire des philosophies modernes de la Sorbonne

In the Logic of the Cultural Sciences (1942), German philosopher and epistemologist Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) used the concept of style (Stilbegriff) to legitimize the scientific nature of art history and, more generally, of the human sciences, but also to distinguish them (after Wilhelm Dilthey and Heinrich Rickert) from the natural sciences. According to him, style is indeed a formal or structural concept that prevents the Kunst- or Kulturwissenschaftler from falling into the triple pitfall of naturalism, historicism and psychologism, thus allowing them to develop a methodology that is irreducible to causality, i.e. to the methodology that is typical of the sciences of nature.

Yet, 20 years earlier, in “The Concept of Symbolic Form in the Construction of the Human Sciences” (1923), Cassirer had already borrowed Goethe’s concept of style to describe not the cultural sciences, but the natural sciences of his time, and more particularly Albert Einstein’s physics, which, he admitted, is not exclusively causal in nature, since it also uses formal or structural categories. In so doing, Cassirer did not seek to blur the differences between the sciences of nature and the sciences of culture. Rather, he tried to demonstrate that, if there indeed is a “science of art” (Kunstwissenschaft) that can produce some knowledge about artistic phenomena, there also exists what could be called an “art of science”, in that, as Goethe himself suggested, science as a whole is a symbolic process through which humanity shapes (and not simply imitates or explains a pre-given) reality.

This exemplarity of art for science raises the question of the very nature of the concept of style in Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy. Is it only meant to be an epistemological concept used to characterize a certain mode of scientific practice? Or is it meant to define, in a more profound way, symbolism as such? Drawing upon the Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms, I will show that for Cassirer, style is neither an “alter ego” of the symbolic form (Naumann), nor a conceptual tool limited to the analysis of artistic forms (Lauschke). It instead designates the specific manner in which the symbolic function of the human mind actually takes shape and diversifies throughout history. That is why Cassirer’s concept of style could be understood as a symbolism in action or in progress, i.e. as a historicized version of Goethe’s maxim, according to which “the particular is the general made manifest under different conditions.”

How Maxwell Discovered the Maxwell Equations

Francesco Nappo, Department of Mathematics, Politecnico di Milano

The official story – the one still taught in many university-level physics courses – of how J. C. Maxwell arrived at the Maxwell equations goes roughly as follows. Having collected the main experimental laws of the electromagnetic science of his time, namely Gauss’ law for electricity, Gauss’ law for magnetism, Faraday’s law for electrical induction, and Ampère’s law for electromagnetism, Maxwell noticed that they jointly violated the principle of conservation of charge. For this reason, and possibly motivated by a love for symmetries, he decided to add an additional term to the equations – the ‘displacement current’, understood as a rate of change of an electric field over time. By means of this bold postulation (which further experiments surprisingly confirmed), the principle of conservation of charge got restored.

As a matter of historical fact, things went very differently. In the first part of the presentation, I will sketch the main elements of Maxwell’s monumental scientific creation. It involved re-imagining electromagnetic forces in the mathematically more familiar terms of fluids flowing in tubes of variable section, exploiting analogies with hydrodynamics. Subsequently, Maxwell introduced an imaginary substratum of the electromagnetic forces consistent with the fluid model, exploiting an analogy with a mechanical system of molecular vortices. The introduction of the displacement current resulted from Maxwell’s insight that the system would need to be elastic in order to account for the phenomena of electrostatic charge and induction.

In the second part of the presentation, I will discuss some interesting similarities and differences of Maxwell’s scientific creation with artistic creation. Special attention will be paid to the description of Maxwell’s work as an exercise of a ‘constrained’ form of freedom. In this context, a connection will be drawn with the philosophical reflections of John Dewey and Benedetto Croce concerning the aesthetic aspects of scientific investigation and the thesis of the ‘primacy of the aesthetic’. The idea that the scientific investigator is, in the course of doing his or her research, aesthetically engaged sets the stage for a historically well-informed discussion of the aesthetics of science – the (severely underexplored) discipline concerned with the ‘intuitive’ and ‘non-conceptual’ elements inherent to the scientific practices of knowledge-production.

Cultural Politics of Historical Epistemology

Pietro Daniel Omodeo, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

This communication addresses the political question of historical epistemology, at three levels. As I consider historical epistemology to be an inquiry into the genesis, validity and goals of knowledge (especially, scientific knowledge) and politics as the realm of collective agency, the political question  of historical epistemology especially concerns the collective character of the goals that inform science. First, the political question relates to the function of science at the level of ideas, that is, as ideology. In this respect, science can be understood as a historically given intellectual means to justify and guide collective decisions by acting at a psychological and, as it were, a spiritual level. Secondly, science as a force of transformation also acts as a material means of change of nature and of society. This second level is directly connected with the Baconian nexus of knowledge and domination, but re-read through praxeological lenses as a problem of objective change of environmental conditions. Thirdly, at the meta-level, historical epistemology as a specific path to knowledge theory reverses abstract conceptions of science and nature as they were both given in absolute terms. By contrast, it investigates the concrete conditions for the emergence, development and directness of all knowledge. In this sense, historical epistemology can be seen as the knowledge theory of historical materialism. It favours a critical but not skeptical attitude toward science and its potential. In this perspective, historical epistemology is a matter of cultural politics.

Art and Science, Method and Style: The Function of the Concept of Style in French Historical Epistemology

Daniel Rodriguez-Navas, The New School for Social Research

The goal of this presentation is to elucidate the relationship between two pairs of concepts: the concepts of method and style within French historical epistemology (FHE), and the concepts of scientific and of artistic style.

After an introductory discussion of the idea of FHE, understood, through the Wittgenstenian model of family resemblance, as a family of views about and ways of engaging in the history and philosophy of science, I will argue, in a first part of the presentation, that a concept ‘like’ the concept of style is ‘called for’ by the FHE approach to the history and philosophy of science. The starting point of the argument will be the observation that one of the typical traits of FHE is the idea that the history of science is irreducible to the chronology of discoveries within each scientific discipline (Canguilhem). For one of the tasks of the FHEpistemologist—with apologies for the barbaric abbreviation—is to identify patterns in the discourse and practices of scientists (in a capacious sense of the term that includes, as Canguilhem notes, those who grant themselves that honorific title without being quite entitled to it).

This irreducibility of the history of science to the chronology of scientific discovery, however, imposes an important restriction on how FHEpistemologists may go about identifying those patterns: they cannot rely on references to the scientific methods explicitly and self-consciously adopted by past scientists, as this would amount to adopting the latter’s perspectives, ensuring that the resulting history would be mere chronology. Hence the usefulness of a concept ‘like’ the concept of style for FHEpistemologists and the sense in which FHE ‘calls for’ such a concept. The notion of style enables FHEpistemologists to identify types of unity and coherence in scientific discourse and practices other than the unity conferred upon them by consciously adopted scientific methodologies. It enables them to see past scientific practice and discourse from a perspective other than that internal to the disciplines that constitute their object of enquiry. Borrowing Bachelard’s understating of the épistemologie as the psychoanalysis of the scientific mind, we might simply say that style is unconscious counterpart of conscious scientific method. More precisely, if less simply, we will say is that if the mark of scientific reason is that it consciously regulates itself through explicitly and self-consciously adopted and methodological principles, each ‘style of scientific thought’ (a variant of Hacking’s “styles of scientific reasoning”) is the concrete manifestation of the unconscious counterpart of scientific reason.

This insight, that the concept of scientific style is, within FHE, the functional analogue of the concept of method in alternative approaches to the history and philosophy of science, provides a useful entry-point for the second part of the presentation, the discussion of the relationship between the concepts of scientific and artistic style. I will argue that strictly speaking, the concept of method finds no application in the case of aesthetic production (while insisting that the concept of technique plays an analogous role), and offer the rudiments of an account of this difference between artistic and scientific production, and of the corresponding difference between the notions of scientific and artistic style, in terms of a difference between the teleological constraints that guide and govern scientific and artistic practice: while in the case of the sciences ‘the facts’ function as ‘hard external constraints’, the arts meet no such external constraints. Instead, they are ‘dialectically regulated’ by the aesthetic standards dominant within their respective cultural-historical settings, ‘soft’ standards which they aim to reconfigure and subvert without altogether forsaking.

Varieties of pluralism. Granger’s, Feyerabend’s and Hacking’s theories of scientific styles compared

Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice / Harvard University

One of the “pluralisms” that proliferated in Anglophone philosophy of science during the second half of the twentieth century involves conceiving of the history of science as a history of “scientific styles”. A growing number of historians and philosophers of science have touted the concept of style as more flexible than method in conceiving of the historicity and plurality of the ways of thinking, discovering, and experimenting that constitute the sciences. Conflicting interpretations of “styles” in science mainly concern whether the term implies abandonment of the realism, objectivity, and progressiveness commonly understood to distinguish science from the arts. My aim is to give an overview of the different ways the concept of “scientific styles” has been understood in the history of philosophy of science. I will moreover try to show how some versions of this concept allows for a form of pluralism that avoids relativism.

In the first part of my talk, I will discuss how P.K. Feyerabend mobilized art historian Alois Riegl’s idea of self-standing cultural units (Kunstwollen, “will to art”) to show that different scientific theories, like different artistic styles, cannot be compared against a common background and are therefore “incommensurable”. From this perspective, expounded in Feyerabend’s Wissenschaft Als Kunst (1984), science is analogous to the arts in that neither shows objectivity or progress. I will then contrast Feyerabend’s view with the one put forward by Hacking, whose style-project, which spanned over 30 years, elaborates a notion of “styles of scientific reasoning” aiming to account for the objective and progressive nature of scientific knowledge and practice. By conceiving scientific styles as a relatively closed set of ways of finding out about the world and intervening in it, Hacking’s styles tend to accumulate-both reasoning strategies and ontological entities.

In the second part of my talk, I will analyse Gilles-Gaston Granger’s theory of scientific styles as developed in his Essai d’une philosophie du style (1968), a deeply original and yet scarcely studied epistemological analysis of style. Granger’s Essai, not available in English, has so far aroused interest only in French scholarship. In this work, Granger reworks the notion of style from the ground up, advancing an idea of “generalized stylistics” to theorize the dynamics mutually shaping objects and methods of production. Far from being merely ornamental, style for Granger becomes a category of formal thought through which one can reconsider the dialectics among theory and practice, abstraction, and individualization. I will highlight Granger’s Essai as an example of “comparative epistemology” that attempts to interrogate the boundaries of the natural, formal, human, and social sciences in terms of both objects and methods.

All three theories endorse a form of scientific pluralism. Yet whereas Feyerabend’s styles invite epistemic relativism and constructivism, Hacking’s and Granger’s theories show that style can support objectivity, realism, and progressiveness. Taking this comparative analysis as my point of departure, I will argue, against Feyerabend’s stylistic anarchism or epistemic “Dadaism”, that the historicity and plurality of scientific styles do not imply epistemic relativism.

Colloque: Claude Bernard. Histoire et philosophie d’une théorie physiologique (17-18 mai 2022)

Colloque : « Claude Bernard. Histoire et philosophie d’une théorie physiologique »

Lieu : Montréal, CIRST
Dates : mardi 17 & mercredi 18 mai 2022

Le colloque sera donné en format hybride

Le programme est disponible à l’URL suivant :

Prière de s’inscrire préalablement via :–orjIoGNeZgRqbomkhYgLZRWhCWhiU

Local : Université du Québec à Montréal

Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W)
455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est

Montréal, Québec, H2L 4Y2

Département de philosophie,

5e étage Salle W-5215

Informations :

Colloquium « Claude Bernard. History and philosophy of a Physiological Theory »

Location : Montréal, CIRST
Dates : Tuesday 17th  & Wednesday 18th, May 2022

The colloquium will be held as a hybrid event

The program is available at the following url :

Please register beforehand at :–orjIoGNeZgRqbomkhYgLZRWhCWhiU

Room : Université du Québec à Montréal

Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W)
455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est

Montréal, Québec, H2L 4Y2

Département de philosophie,

5th Floor, Room W-5215 

Informations :

Styles and Method in the Early-Modern and the Modern Period

Styles and Method in the Early-Modern and the Modern Period 
Spring 2022 – Online Seminar
Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia – Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage

European Commission – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

Organizer: Matteo Vagelli (Ca’ Foscari/Harvard)
Further information:
APRIL 11, 2022  
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Carlotta Santini, CNRS
Reading well, writing well, living well. Friedrich Nietzsche and the question of style

APRIL 26, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Raz Chen-Morris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Fantasy, Scientific Thought and the End of Baroque Science

MAY 2, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Denis Kambouchner, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Du style en philosophie, à partir de Descartes – entretien avec Denis Kambouchner

MAY 12, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Emilie Passignat, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia
Manner: Connoisseurship and Taxonomy, Individual and Collective Identity

MAY 23, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Gianna Pomata, Johns Hopkins
The Unbearable Lightness of Thinking: Theory as “Capriccio” in 17th-Century Medicine
Matteo Vagelli, PhD
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University) 

Mois de l’épistémologie historique – Novembre 2020

6èmes Journées d’études sur l’Épistémologie Historique
Épistémologie historique et épistémologie de l’histoire

4, 12, 18, 25 Novembre 2020
17h-19h (Paris time)

Plateforme Zoom



Les journées d’études sont organisées par

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

avec le soutien de 

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte



Mercredi 4 Novembre                  17h-19h (Paris time)

Paul Roth (University of California, Santa Cruz), Hacking’s Historiography?

Matteo Vagelli (Université Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne), Does historical epistemology need a theory of history?

Lucie Fabry (École normale supérieure & Centre Marc Bloch), Epistemologies of history with a Bachelardian background: Granger, Althusser and Foucault.

Jeudi 12 Novembre                       17h-19h (Paris time)

Stefanos Geroulanos (New York University), Concepts, Metaphors, and Historical Epistemology.

Annagiulia Canesso (Università degli Studi di Padova, Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici di Napoli), L’histoire errante de la vérité entre Gaston Bachelard et Georges Canguilhem.

Alberto Vianelli (Università degli Studi dell’Insubria), Marc Bloch, un historien entre métier et démarche scientifique.

Mercredi 18 Novembre                17h-19h (Paris time)

Perrine Simon-Nahum (CNRS, École normale supérieure), Le jeune Aron : de la biologie à la philosophie de l’histoire.

Massimiliano Simons (Ghent University), History as engagement: The Historical Epistemology of Raymond Aron.

Iván Moya Diez (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), De l’universalité à la contingence des valeurs. La problématisation du jugement historique chez Canguilhem.

Mercredi 25 Novembre                17h-19h (Paris time)

Sophie Roux (École normale supérieure), La question de l’historicité des sciences chez les bachelardiens.

Silvia De Cesare (Université de Genève), L’idée de « progrès » entre histoire des sciences et histoire de la vie : analyse d’une analogie proposée par Thomas Kuhn.

Masahito Hirai (University of Tokyo), Le principe des conditions d’existence et son application en sociologie comtienne.


Comité d’organisation

Matteo Vagelli
Ivan Moya Diez
Lucie Fabry
Caroline Angleraux
Marcos Camolezi
Victor Lefèvre

Comité Scientifique

Christian Bonnet, CHSPM Paris 1
Jean-François Braunstein, PhiCo Paris 1
Hasok Chang, Cambridge University
Cristina Chimisso, Open University, UK
Arnold I. Davidson, Université de Chicago
Moritz Epple, Université de Francfort
Pierre Wagner, IHPST Paris 1

CFP – HPLS Journal: Normativity and the Life Sciences

Call for papers: History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. 2021 Special Issue.

Topic of the Special Issue: “Normativity and the Life Sciences: Analytical and Continental Perspectives”

Guest editors: 

Luca Corti
Ivan Moya Diez
Matteo Vagelli

We are inviting submissions for a Special Issue of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. This special issue will be devoted to the topic of ‘Normativity and the Life Sciences: Analytical and Continental Perspective’. Below you can find the rationale of the Issue. 

Submission instructions:

All submissions, as well as inquiries about submissions to the special  issue, should be sent by e-mail to the guest editors:

Submissions must not be submitted to or be under review at other journals, books, etc.

Submissions should not be longer than 9000 words, they should be sent as .doc files and they should include an abstract of 150 to 250 words. The abstract should not contain any undefined abbreviations or unspecified references.

Submissions should be prepared for blind review: All identifying information about the author(s) such as names or institutional affiliations, have to be removed. Self-citations have to be anonymized.

Submission deadline:  October 15th, 2020 


In recent years, normativity and the status of norms have been at the center of several key debates in both the Continental and analytical traditions.. The question of normativity encompasses contentious issues touching various areas, including philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind and cognition, as well as metaethics. The development of disciplines tied to evolution (such as evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, etc.) as well as to the organisation of living beings (such as system biology) has driven a new interest and led to the introduction of crucial new perspectives into the philosophical conversation on norms.

Within this framework, the relation between norms and the phenomenon of life has become central: various thinkers coming from different philosophical traditions have analysed the problem of normativity from the premise that norms originate within life or the living organism and are tied to functions, or located norms in an evolutionary framework. Arguments from the life sciences have powerfully entered the debate not only in philosophy of medicine but also in metaethics..

We intend this special issue to open space for dialogue between philosophers and historians of science with different methodological approaches to normativity and its relation to the life sciences. By putting Continental, historical, and analytical approaches to vital normativity in conversation, the special issue aims to provide a synoptic view that sheds new light on individual topics, such as the origins and status of normativity in life or the strategies for naturalising norms offered by the theoretical framework of the life sciences. This dialogue will mobilize the work of Canguilhem, and, through him, the approach fostered by historical epistemology. It will engage analogous questions emerging from a classical German context. Literature on classical German philosophy and the problem of living normativity is abundant and scholarship on Canguilhem biology and vitalism is growing steadily, but no relevant connection between them has yet been drawn. This special issue will bring these two strands together and connect them with contemporary Anglo-American debates on the naturalisation of norms.

Topics for submitted papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • Normativity and explanation in the life sciences
  • Forms and accounts of biological normativity 
  • The notion of “function”: philosophical and historical perspectives
  • Norms and evolution
  • Historical reflection on normativity, life and cognition (in areas such as French Epistemology, Classical German Philosophy, etc.)
  • Vital normativity and the epistemology of the life sciences
  • Teleology and its normative import: philosophical and historical aspects
  • The relation between social and vital norms

Invited contributors:

Michael Ruse (Florida State University)
Dennis Walsh (Toronto)
Monica Greco (Goldsmith, University of London)
Silvia De Cesare (Université de Genève)

Journées Latino-Américaines d’Épistémologie Historique


16/07- Epistemologia histórica e história das ciências humanas
Marcela Renée Becerra Bátan (UNSL, Argentina), María Laura Martínez (UDELAR, Uruguai), Maurício de Carvalho Ramos (USP)

23/07 – Historiografia das Ciências
Marlon Salomon (UFG), Mauro Condé (UFMG), Francismary Alves da Silva (UFSB)

30/07 – História e epistemologia da Geografia
Larissa Lira (UFMG), Wolf-Dietrich Sahr (UFPR), Patrícia Aranha (USP)

06/08 – História e epistemologia da Psicologia
Iván Moya Diez (Université Paris 1, França), Marcio Luiz Miotto (UFF) Marcos Camolezi (Núcleo de Estudos Bergsonianos – NEB/UNIFESP),

13/08 – Ciências Humanas e Artes
Camila Gui Rosatti (USP), Paulo Knauss (UFF), Pedro Caldas (Unirio)

20/08 – Medicina e humanidades
Sandra Caponi (UFSC), José Ricardo de C. M. Ayres (USP), Kleverton Bacelar (UFBA)

27/08- Arquivos e big data

João Ohara (UFRJ), Miguel Palmeira (USP), Thiago Nicodemo (Unicamp)

03/09 – História do método

Fábio Ferreira de Almeida (UFG), Itamar Freitas de Oliveira (UFS), Tiago Santos Almeida (UFG),

10/09 – História da Historiografia

Felipe Brandi (EHESS), Rodrigo Turin (Unirio), Temístocles Cezar (UFRGS)

17/09- Para além do pensamento moderno
Federico Navarrete Linares (UNAM, México), Francine Iegelski (UFF), Marcos Lanna (UFSCar)

CFP – 6èmes Journées d’études sur l’EH – Paris 2020



Appel à Communications 

6èmes Journées d’études sur l’Épistémologie Historique
Épistémologie historique et épistémologie de l’histoire

Paris, 4-5-6 juin 2020



Les journées d’études sont organisées par

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

avec le soutien de 

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte


L’étude des rapports que l’épistémologie historique entretient avec l’histoire révèle un paradoxe : d’un côté, la notion même d’épistémologie historique confère à l’histoire un rôle essentiel, en proposant de lier entre elles la réflexion philosophique sur les sciences et la prise en compte de leur historicité. Mais, d’un autre côté, force est de constater que l’épistémologie historique s’est très peu intéressée à la discipline historienne en tant que telle. Ainsi l’épistémologie historique n’a-t-elle pas développé, du moins à l’origine, une épistémologie de l’histoire.

On peut trouver l’origine de ce paradoxe dans les textes de Gaston Bachelard qui ont posé les jalons de l’historiographie propre à l’épistémologie historique. En affirmant que l’histoire des sciences ne pouvait être une histoire comme les autres, Bachelard y opposait point par point les exigences de l’historiographie traditionnelle — la rigueur descriptive et le souci d’éviter les anachronismes — et celles de l’histoire des sciences qu’il souhaitait promouvoir, qu’il présentait comme une histoire du progrès scientifique, résolument rétrospective et normative.

Dans la perspective de Bachelard, qui ne reconnaît d’autre forme d’historicité que celle de l’accès à la scientificité, on peut ainsi poser la question de savoir si la discipline historienne possède elle-même une histoire comparable à celle de la physique ou des mathématiques, ou si elle se rapproche davantage de l’anhistoricité du préscientifique. Les héritages pluriels de l’épistémologie bachelardienne que l’on a pu rassembler sous la notion d’épistémologie historique se sont caractérisés par différentes manières de répondre à cette question ou de la reformuler. Certains auteurs ont tenté d’appliquer les concepts et les méthodes de l’épistémologie historique à l’histoire elle-même. C’est le cas de Louis Althusser, qui présente l’émergence du matérialisme historique comme le dépassement d’une histoire idéologique et l’accès à une science de l’histoire. L’épistémologie historique s’intéresserait alors à l’histoire dans la mesure où celle-ci est capable d’accéder à une scientificité comparable à celle des sciences de la nature. Une tentative un peu différente de resserrer les liens entre l’épistémologie historique et l’histoire générale est proposée par L’Archéologie du savoir, qui s’inspire de l’épistémologie bachelardienne et de l’histoire des Annales pour élaborer un nouveau manifeste historiographique. Foucault nous inviterait alors à modifier les catégories initiales de l’épistémologie historique, pour poser la question plus générale du découpage des formations discursives, question qui s’appliquerait aussi bien à la science qu’aux autres phénomènes discursifs. Malgré ce précédent foucaldien, on peut se demander si les présupposés de l’historiographie bachelardienne ne font pas partie des facteurs qui pourraient expliquer la faible intensité des relations entre l’histoire des sciences et l’histoire des mentalités, que l’on a régulièrement déplorée.

Des auteurs comme Gilles-Gaston Granger, dont on connaît l’influence sur Paul Veyne, ont plutôt cherché à justifier le fait que l’épistémologie historique n’ait pas pris pour objet la discipline historienne, en avançant différents arguments pour montrer que l’histoire n’est pas une science. On pourra interroger, dans cette perspective, le statut qui est alors conféré à la démarche historienne, et se demander si le fait de refuser à l’histoire la scientificité ne vient pas, en retour, fragiliser subrepticement une épistémologie historique qui s’appuie sur l’histoire des sciences. On pourra finalement étudier des auteurs qui, tout en remettant en cause l’idée que l’histoire puisse être une science au même titre que les sciences de la nature, ont cependant refusé de la rapprocher de la connaissance commune : c’est ainsi le cas de Jean-Claude Passeron qui, tout en s’inspirant de l’épistémologie historique, revendique l’existence d’une différence radicale entre le régime de scientificité des sciences historiques et celles des sciences expérimentales, et montre que cette différence affecte les types de progrès et de discontinuités dont ces sciences sont susceptibles. On pourra ainsi se demander s’il n’est pas utile de revenir sur la distinction bachelardienne entre histoire des sciences et histoire générale en remarquant les différences entre les histoires des différentes disciplines scientifiques. La question, en effet, ne concerne pas seulement la discipline historienne en tant que telle, mais toutes les sciences qui se veulent “historiques” dans la mesure où elles portent sur des événements ayant eu lieu dans le passé et qui vont des diverses sciences humaines et sociales à la géologie ou à la biologie de l’évolution, pour ne citer que des exemples. Ces sciences sont-elles toutes historiques dans le même sens ? Dans quel sens et dans quelle mesure une discipline peut-elle se dire “historique” ? De quelle manière l’historicité d’une science est-elle liée à l’historicité de son objet et de ses méthodes ? 

Trois sont donc les axes que nous voudrions analyser à l’occasion de ces journées :

  • Axe 1 : Quelle est la spécificité de l’histoire des sciences par rapport à d’autres démarches historiennes ? 
  • Axe 2 : Vers une épistémologie historique de l’histoire ?
  • Axe 3 : La pluralité des rapports entre historicité et objets scientifiques dans les savoirs formels, sciences de la vie, sciences de la matière, sciences humaines et sociales.

Comme les années précédentes, nous souhaitons que le sujet retenu soit l’occasion d’une rencontre entre des philosophes et historiens des sciences aux options méthodologiques variées. Nous désirons donc recevoir des propositions adoptant dans des proportions diverses une approche historique et/ou analytique appliquée à la clarification critique de certains des concepts les plus centraux des sciences “sciences historiques” au sens large, allant de l’histoire historienne aux sciences sociales et aux sciences de la vie. 

Les propositions d’interventions (max 500 mots, plus une courte présentation du candidat) sont à nous faire parvenir, avant le 15 mars 2020 (date de réponse le 1 avril), en format word ou pdf à Les deux langues des journées seront le français et l’anglais. 


Call for papers

6th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology
Historical Epistemology and Epistemology of History

Paris, 4-5-6 June 2020


The workshop is organized by

Épistémologie historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte


Study of the relationship between historical epistemology and history immediately reveals a paradox: on the one hand, the very idea of historical epistemology assigns a central role to history, proposing to connect philosophical reflection on the sciences with acknowledgement of their historicity. Yet, on the other hand, one cannot fail to notice that historical epistemology as a field has concerned itself very little with the discipline of history as such. As a result, it has not yet developed an epistemology of history.

We can locate the origin of this paradox in the texts of Gaston Bachelard, which laid out the basic notions about history still characterizing historical epistemology. Recognizing the history of science as distinct from traditional history, Bachelard conceived history of science to oppose point-by-point the needs of traditional historiography – including its emphasis on rigorous description and concern for avoiding anachronism. The resulting history of scientific progress he presented was resolutely retrospective and normative.

Bachelard did not acknowledge any form of historicity other than the one made possible by overcoming the threshold of scientificity. He thus asked whether the discipline of history should be understood to have a history comparable to that of physics or mathematics or if it should be understood as closer to the ahistoricity of the pre-scientific. The plural heritages of Bachelardian epistemology that gathered around this question are characterized by their different ways of responding to or reformulating this question. Some authors have tried to apply the concepts and methods of historical epistemology to history itself. That is the case for Louis Althusser, who presents the emergence of historical materialism as the overcoming of an ideological notion of history and ascension of a science of history. Historical epistemology would therefore be interested in history to the extent that the latter is capable of accessing a level of scientificity comparable to that of the natural sciences. A somewhat different attempt to reinforce the links between historical epistemology and general history is put forward by Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge, which is inspired by Bachelard’s epistemology and by the history of the Annales and aims to elaborate a new historiographic manifesto. Foucault invites us to modify the initial categories of historical epistemology in order to ask a more general question about the emergence of discursive formations –a question which applies to the sciences as well as to other discursive phenomena. This Foucauldian precedent notwithstanding, one may ask whether the presuppositions underwriting Bachelardian historiography are not among the main factors explaining the weak relationship between the history of science and the history of mentality.

Authors like Gilles-Gaston Granger, whose influence on Paul Veyne is well known, have tried to justify the fact that historical epistemology has not taken the discipline of history as an object by putting forward different claims that history is not a science. Examining the status given to history in various arguments allows us to analyse the degree to which the move to deny history a form of scientificity marginalizes or renders precarious forms of historical epistemology that rely on the history of science. It also enables us to analyse the arguments of authors that, despite questioning whether history is a science in the same sense as the natural sciences, nonetheless refuse to consider it as closer to common knowledge: this is the case for Jean-Claude Passeron, who, while drawing on historical epistemology, sees a radical difference between the regime of scientificity of the historical sciences and that of the experimental sciences and argues that this difference affects the types of progress and of discontinuity these sciences instantiate. Exploring such arguments will make it possible for us to return to Bachelard’s distinction between the history of science and general history by remarking on differences between the histories of the different scientific disciplines. These questions are relevant not only for the discipline of history itself but also for other sciences that claim to be “historical” to the extent that they bear on events that have taken place in the past – from the human and social sciences to geology or the biology of evolution, just to mention some examples. Are all these sciences “historical” in the same sense? In what sense can a discipline consider itself “historical”? In what way is the historicity of a science linked to the historicity of its objects and its methods?

There are three axes we would like to analyse for this year’s workshop:

  • Axe 1: What is specific about the history of science in relation to other historical methodologies?
  • Axe 2:   What would it mean to move towards an historical epistemology of history?
  • Axe 3: How can we characterize and distinguish the historicity of scientific objects in formal knowledge, the life sciences, the sciences of matter, and the human and the social sciences?

As in previous years, we would like this theme to represent an occasion for encounter among philosophers and historians of science with different methodological approaches. In other terms, we would like to receive proposals adopting a range of historical and/or analytical approaches to critical clarification of the central concepts of the “historical sciences,” understood in the widest sense as spanning from history as such to the social and life sciences.

Proposals (500 words plus a short presentation of the candidate) must be sent by 15 March 2020 (notification of acceptance or refusal by 1 April) in Word or .pdf formats to Proposals by graduate students and early career researchers will be prioritized. The languages of the workshop will be French and English.


Confirmed Keynotes

Sophie Roux (ENS)
Paul A. Roth (California)
Perrine Simon-Nahum (EHESS)


Comité d’organisation

Matteo Vagelli (coordinateur)
Ivan Moya Diez (coordinateur)
Caroline Angleraux
Marcos Camolezi
Lucie Fabry
Victor Lefèvre

Comité Scientifique

Christian Bonnet, CHSPM Paris 1
Jean-François Braunstein, PhiCo Paris 1
Hasok Chang, Cambridge University
Cristina Chimisso, Open University, UK
Arnold I. Davidson, Université de Chicago
Moritz Epple, Université de Francfort
Pierre Wagner, IHPST Paris 1



Global histories of the social survey in the long nineteenth century – February 18-19, 2020 – Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin

Global histories of the social survey in the long nineteenth century aims at analysing the co-production of the social and the colonial as related objects of scientific knowledge as well as fields of political and economic intervention in the long nineteenth century. The period under consideration connects the military-scientific expeditions to Egypt and the Terres Australes of the late Republic and early Napoleonic empire with the reconfiguration of the colonial world-order in
the wake of the First World War (ca. 1798-1918). As research in recent decades has focused mainly on the production of state-related social knowledge as tool of government and domination, our workshop wishes to explore administrative knowledge production along with less state-centred knowledge practices. While histories of classification in terms of gender, race and class as well as other social categories and their related juridical-economic consequences are an indispensable
background for studies on the history of early social sciences, it is our understanding that the focus on taxonomy and structure tends to overwrite the imaginative and intellectual agency of categorized subjects themselves. For related reasons the history of social inquiry has received large attention as an instrument of discipline but much less as an active means of epistemic resistance.
The perspective of a “history of inquiries” (Topalov 2015) in a global perspective might allow to disclose some of these untold stories at the intersection of state-related knowledge (Vogel/ Schilling 2019) and its appropriation and transformation by diverse groups of actors. At the same time the study of early techniques of social surveys, their development, reception and circulation through European and colonial spaces might contribute to a history of administrative knowledge in its social/national as well as colonial realm. Yet, the workshop does not aim to define the practice of the inquiry, its goal is rather a preliminary exploration of its different forms, materials and techniques. Leading questions of the workshop are: What were the representations of the “social” and the “colonial” embedded in and created by inquiries? How did they evolve and circulate throughout empires and social movements alike? How was epistemic resistance organized and how did social knowledge production from below look like? What are the methodological potentials and challenges of a global history of the social survey as an alternative path to write the history of the social/colonial sciences in the long nineteenth century?

Philosophie et histoire de la psychiatrie de l’enfant et de l’adolescent – Séminaire de formation et recherche 2019/2020



19 septembre : John Haslam, les premiers cas d’observation pédopsychiatrique, par Jérémie SINZELLE

10 octobre : Le cas Hölderlin, adolescence, folie et créativité : de M. Blanchot à J. Laplache, par Clément FROMENTIN

21 novembre : Le TDAH et ses traitements au fil du temps, par Eric KONOFAL

19 décembre : Attention, agitation. Comment le signifiant « agitation » a recouvert le signifiant « excitation », par Yann DIENER

23 janvier : Visualiser l’esprit de l’enfant : vers une épistémologie historique de l’observation de la petite enfance, par Félix RIETMANN

27 février : « L’enfant fou » au 19ème siècle : quelles définitions ? Quelles réalités ? Par Aude FAUVEL

26 mars : Aspects historiques et épistémolo- giques de la psychiatrie transculturelle, par Marie-Rose MORO

23 avril : Julian de Ajuriaguerra (1911-1993) passeur de frontières, par Evelyne LENOBLE

28 mai : Autour de la naissance de la pédopsy- chiatrie dans l’entre-deux-guerres, par Frédéric FRUTEAU / Yann CRAUS

25 juin : Le syndrome d’Asperger-Wing à partir de l’histoire de Czech et Sheffer, par Yann CRAUS et Jérémie SINZELLE

Argument : Spécialité médicale dynamique, la psychiatrie de l’enfant établit ses champs de savoir, de pratiques et de recherches à la croisée des sciences biomédicales (e.g. neurosciences, épidémiologie, sciences cognitives) d’une part, et d’autre part des sciences humaines (e.g. sociologie, anthropologie, linguistique). Ce séminaire propose de participer à la formation en pédopsychiatrie, du côté des sciences humaines, au travers des outils de la philosophie et de l’histoire, véritables domaines de recherche et de contribution à la connaissance clinique. L’histoire de la psychiatrie, issue d’une longue tradition en France illustrée notamment par les travaux de Georges Lantéri‐Laura, Paul Bercherie, Jacques Postel, Jean Garrabé, Michel Caire, est déjà abordée dans différents séminaires franciliens, tandis que la philosophie de la psychiatrie suscite un regain d’intérêt international depuis les années 1990 et surtout 2000, au‐delà des apports classiques de la phénoménologie introduite dans la clinique psychiatrique par Karl Jaspers au début du XXème siècle. Philosophie et Histoire avanceront ici ensemble dans l’étude des textes fondamentaux de la pédopsychiatrie et de leurs auteurs. Apparaîtront alors la langue originale de nos devanciers, les concepts qu’elle charrie ainsi que leurs différentes fortunes. Aussi serons‐nous en mesure, au plus près de la pensée clinique, de mieux comprendre les débats actuels qui animent notre discipline tout en réfléchissant à une psychiatrie de l’enfant en construction.

Entrée libre (inscription par courriel pour les internes : )




Programme 5èmes journées d’études sur l’Epistémologie Historique


5èmes Journées d’études sur l’épistémologie historique

La philosophie des sciences du vivant

Biologie et médecine au prisme de l’épistémologie historique

16-17-18 mai 2019


École doctorale de Philosophie (ED 280 – Paris 1)

Centre de Philosophie Contemporaine de la Sorbonne,
Institut des sciences Juridique & Philosophique de la Sorbonne
(UMR 8103 CNRS – Paris 1)

Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques
(UMR 8590 CNRS – Paris 1)

Avec le soutien de la Maison d’Auguste Comte

Formulaire d’inscription

L’ensemble des journées aura lieu dans la Salle 6 du Centre Panthéon, 12 Place du Panthéon, 75005, Paris (Aile Soufflot 2ème étage). Pour des raisons de sécurité l’inscription est obligatoire pour avoir accès au centres de l’université.

JEUDI 16 mai

9h Accueil

9h30 Accumulation and the Progress of Knowledge. Reflections on Natural History and Biology , Staffan Müller-Wille (Exeter)

10h30 Pause café

10h50 Revisiting the history of biology with nutrition: vital mechanisms and the ontology of life, Cecilia Bognon (Labex Who am I/IHPST)
11h30 Le principe de la sélection naturelle : une loi « organique » pour les sciences de la vie ? , Nicola Bertoldi (IHPST)

12h10 Pause déjeuner

14h10 Dreaming of a universal biology, Massimiliano Simons (Leuven)
14h50 La biologie relationnelle : ni vitalisme, ni mécanisme, Modera Astrid (Namur)

15h30 Pause café

15h50 The underestimated influence of Spinoza’s philosophy on Johannes Peter Müller’s sensory physiology, Buyse Filip (CSMBR, Pisa)
16h30 La criminologie biologique du point de vue du discours scientifique de la police judiciaire, Allemagne, 1928-1944, Laurens Schlicht (Humboldt)
17h10 Du mode d’existence des bio-objets : comment les bio-banques défient l’épistémologie, Emanuele Clarizio (ISJPS)


9h30 Les commencements de la philosophie de la technique : vers une approche biologique de l’activité fabricatrice, Marcos Camolezi (Paris 1)

10h10 Pause café

10h30 A life among necrological folds: A vitapolitics for education, Pietra Mikulan & Taylor Webb (Vancouver)
11h10 Gouvernement du vivant et gouvernement des vivants. Une critique du concept cybernétique de régulation (sociale), Marco Ferrari (Padoue)

12h00 Pause déjeuner

14h10 L’axiologie dans les sciences de la vie : une confrontation entre la pensée de Canguilhem et le débat contemporain en philosophie de la biologie, Silvia De Cesare (Leipzig)
14h50 La philosophie biologique de Canguilhem en question : pour une nouvelle alliance entre la technique et la vie, Fiorenza Lupi (Sapienza)

15h30 Pause café

15h50 The normativity of life: Canguilhem and Hegel, Pierpaolo Cesaroni (Padoue) & Luca Corti (Porto)
16h30 Schelling et Canguilhem lecteurs de John Brown (1735-1788) – quelle analogie entre leurs vitalismes ? , Gregorio Demarchi (Zürich)

SAMEDI 18 mai

9h30 L’équivocité du sexe à travers les règnes, Thierry Hoquet (Nanterre)

10h30 Pause café

10h50 Quelle scientificité pour la santé comme normativité ? , Stéphane Zygart (Lille)
11h30 Faire de la santé un objet de science : les échecs répétés d’un projet médical à l’aune de la philosophie canguilhémienne, Delphine Olivier (Paris 1)

12h10 Clôture des journées

Comité scientifique

Christian Bonnet, Professeur, CHSPM Paris 1
Jean-François Braunstein, Professeur, PhiCo Paris 1
Hasok Chang, Professeur, Cambridge University
Cristina Chimisso, Professeur, Open University
Arnold I. Davidson, Professeur, University of Chicago
Moritz Epple, Professeur, Université de Francfort
Pierre Wagner, Professeur, IHPST Paris 1

Comité d’organisation

Laurent LOISON, Ivan MOYA DIEZ, Matteo VAGELLI (coordinateurs)
Caroline ANGLERAUX, Marcos CAMOLEZI, Victor LEFEVRE, Gabriele VISSIO

Bachelardismes et anti-bachelardismes en France. Controverses épistémologiques des années 1960

Colloque organisé par l’USR République des Savoirs, avec le soutien du Labex TransferS et de l’Institut d’études avancées de Paris


On a souvent souligné l’importance de l’épistémologie bachelardienne dans les années 1960, en particulier via la diffusion qu’en a assurée Georges Canguilhem. De telles généralités masquent cependant et la pluralité des héritages bachelardiens et les résistances que les thèses épistémologiques de Bachelard ont d’emblée suscitées. C’est pourquoi ce colloque se propose d’étudier l’incidence de ces thèses, non pas en partant d’une référence à une hypothétique « épistémologie française », mais en s’attachant à distinguer les différents lieux où elles ont provoqué polémiques et controverses.


Mardi 16 avril

09.00 – 12.00   Matérialisme historique et héritages marxistes
Présidence : Sophie Roux

Le bachelardisme problématique de Louis Althusser
Simone Mazauric, Université de Lorraine

Critique de l’idéalisme empiriste : l’histoire bachelardienne des sciences dans l’épistémologie d’Althusser
Audrey Benoit, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Pause café

Can Rupture Be Thought? Historical and Epistemological Breaks in Althusser, Lardreau, and Rancière
Jussi Palmusaari, King’s College London

12.00 – 13.30   Pause déjeuner

13.30 – 18.00   Épistémologie historique et histoire des sciences
Présidence : Frédéric Worms

La question de l’historicité des sciences chez les bachelardiens
Sophie Roux, École normale supérieure

Épistémologie historique et sociologie de la connaissance. Bachelard et l’émergence des SHS
Giuseppe Bianco, Universidade de São Paulo/EHESS

Pause café

The Bachelardian Anti-Bachelardism of Georges Canguilhem’s Histories of Scientific Concepts
Sam Talcott, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Analyser les pratiques sans coupure épistémologique : deux usages de la vérité chez Canguilhem et Foucault
Stéphane Zygart, Université de Lille

The legacy of Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenotechnique : un héritage invisible ?
Massimiliano Simons, KU Leuven & Matteo Vagelli, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Mercredi 17 avril

09.00 – 12.00   Rupture et sociologie
Présidence : Simone Mazauric

Pierre Bourdieu avec Gaston Bachelard : de la « rupture épistémologique » à la pratique de la réflexivité
Marc Joly, CNRS/UVSQ

La double rupture
François de Singly, Université Paris Descartes

Pause café

Quelques complications associées à l’idée de « rupture épistémologique » : une relecture de la polarité « sociologie critique » / « sociologie de la critique »
Elsa Rambaud, Université de Nantes

12.00 – 13.30   Pause déjeuner

13.30 – 15.00   Rupture et sociologie (suite)
Présidence : Simone Mazauric

L’(auto)critique du bachelardisme en sociologie par Jean-Claude Passeron
Lucie Fabry, École normale supérieure

La raison élastique : Passeron, les sciences de la culture et l’héritage bachelardien
Philippe Lacour, Universidade Federal de Brasilia

Pause café

15.30 – 18.00   La science et ses autres
Présidence : Lucie Fabry

Bachelard auteur de science-fiction ? Sciences et fictions de l’anti-bachelardisme dans les années 1980
Vincent Bontems, CEA/Mines ParisTech

« Il ne faut pas trop médire des images ». Imagination matérielle et fantastique transcendantale
Frédéric Fruteau de Laclos, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Dialectique de la durée et temps logique : Bachelard avec Lacan
Elie During, Université Paris Nanterre

Dates: 16 avr 2019 09:00 – 17 avr 2019 18:00

Lieu :Institut d’études avancées de Paris
17 quai d’Anjou 
Hôtel de Lauzun 
75004 Paris

Émail du responsable :

The Philosophy of Ian Hacking

The MTA BTK Lendület Morals and Science Research Group cordially invites you to its upcoming conference on

The Philosophy of Ian Hacking

Date of the event: 29th-30th March, 2019.
Venue of the event: 1097 Budapest, 4. Toth Kalman st., 7th floor


Friday, 29th of March

09.00-10.00: Janette Dinishak: “Autistic Autobiography” Ten Years Later

10.00-10.30: Krzysztof Tarkowski: Who Are You, Professor Hacking?

10.30-11.00: Loren King: Between Two Worlds: Reading Hobbes through Hacking

11.00-11.30: coffee break

11.30-12:30: Mark Risjord: Surrogative Inference and Entity Realism

12.30-13.00: Joao Ribeiro Mendes: The Influence of Gaston Bachelard’s Philosophy of Science on Ian Hacking’s Experimental Realism: An Assessment

13.00-14.30: lunch

14.30-15.00: Tina Wachter: Can Conventionalism Save the Identity of Indiscernibles?

15.00-15.30: Ozan Altinok: Ian Hacking: Limiting Language to Make Place for Reality

15.30-16.00: Charles Djordjevic: Doing ‘Meaning and Use’ Right: Hacking, History and the Legacy of the Later Wittgenstein

16:00-16:30: coffee break

16.30-17.00: Marius Markuckas: Ian Hacking’s Philosophy and the Self-Contradiction of Transhumanism

17.00-18.00: Thomas Uebel: Language, Truth, and Hacking

Saturday, 30th of March

09.00-10.00: Jonathan Tsou: Hacking on Looping Effects and Kinds of People: Instability and Stability in the Classification of Human Types

10.00-10.30: Georgina H. Mills: The Only Epistemic Looping Effect

10.30-11.00: Matteo Colombo & Regina Fabry: Predictive Processing and Delusion. On the Looping Dynamics of Personal and Sub-personal Explanation

11.00-11.30: coffee break

11.30-12.00: Vincenzo Politi: What If You Can’t Spray Them? On Entities, Realisms and Inferences

12.00-12.30: Catherine Green: Nomadic Concepts: Hacking’s Human Kinds and Social Science Concepts

12.30-13.30: lunch

13.30-14.30: Luca Sciortino: Why Styles of Reasoning Matter

14.30-15.00: Matteo Vagelli: Discursive Formations and Styles of Reasoning

15.00-15.30: Hanna Szabelska: Hacking’s Archaeology of Probability: Critical Remarks

15.30-16.00: coffee break

16.00-17.00: Axel Gelfert: The Primacy of Practice: Ian Hacking’s Philosophy of Mathematics

17.00-18.00: Paul Roth: Hacking’s Historiography

Cristina Chimisso (Open University) at SHE – Unimi

Prof. Cristina Chimisso (Open University London), currently Senior Visiting Fellow at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Milan, will deliver two lectures at the Seminar of Historical Epistemology.

The first one is scheduled for March 20 (2.30 p.m.) in Sala Paci, please find below the title and abstract. Everybody is welcome!

Historical Epistemology”

Abstract: Although the term ‘historical epistemology’ has been used to indicate more than one cluster of research projects, it was originally coined by Dominique Lecourt as a label for the French philosophical tradition associated with Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem. I shall discuss historical epistemology in this original sense. I shall argue that the philosophical significance of historical epistemology would be even greater if historians of philosophy, first, properly distinguished Bachelard’s and Canguilhem’s respective philosophies, and, second, considered often neglected historical epistemologists, including Léon Brunschvicg, EÉmile Meyerson, Hélène Metzger, Abel Rey and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl. I shall also argue that historical epistemology offers interesting historiographical models to the historically-minded historian of philosophy.

The second talk is scheduled for April 2 (10.30 a.m.) in Sala Paci, please find below the title and abstract. Everybody is welcome!

Normal: Georges Canguilhem on medicine and the individual

The boundary between what is considered normal and what is considered
pathological is not stable, and in some cases is highly controversial. Is there a right way of drawing this distinction? And who should decide whether a state is normal or pathological? The philosopher Georges Canguilhem (1904-1995) provided original answers to these questions. I shall discuss them, and argue that they can still play an important role in our current debates. At the same time, I shall indicate some of their limitations.

University of Milan, Dept. Of Philosophy, via Festa del Perdono 7, 20122 MilanoFurther information @ |

Further information @ |

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